Jackie Chan returns to American theaters after his painfully dreadful "thing" known as "The Tuxedo" in a much more secure and entertaining sequel to "Shanghai Noon," aptly titled "Shanghai Knights." This time, he and Owen Wilson (still cowboys) head to Victorian England in search of the man who killed Chan's father, and end up becoming involved in a deadly plot to assassinate the royal family. Action and some comedy ensue in this light-hearted and fun film that never takes itself too seriously.
I have finally accepted the fact that Jackie Chan isn't going to do the stupendous stunts that he did when he was younger. Whether it is due to the fact that he is getting old or that American studios are just too afraid of their star getting injured, his action scenes aren't quite what they were. The first time I saw "Rush Hour" and "Shanghai Noon," I was rather disappointed by the intensity of the action scenes. Since then, having viewed them many times, I have come to appreciate them as entertaining action-comedies, and "Shanghai Knights" is no different.
The Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson team is much more enjoyable then the Chan and Tucker team; there is more chemistry here, and no screeching voices. Instead, Chan's cute, foreign dialogue mixes well with the unique drawl of Wilson, who is known for his voice, his nose, and his comedic timing. Together, they are a pair out of heaven, and they start off where they left off in "Shanghai Noon." I still think - and most people would agree - that Chan makes the movie, but Wilson still adds a lot of flavor. It's the best of both worlds.
"Shanghai Knights" has a pretty good plot, a typically ruthless and not-too-deep villain, and plenty of scantily-clad women. It also has some great action scenes (for Americanized Jackie Chan, that is) and some funny moments, as well as great directing from David Dobkin. Dobkin lets Chan control the action scenes for the most part but also pulls off some great stunts as well, such as in the scene where Chan is fighting with an umbrella and turn-of-the-century music is playing. It was hilarious. This is the closest I've seen to a director just leaving the camera on Jackie Chan and allowing the action star to do the rest. Thank you!
While "Shanghai Knights" is relatively entertaining, it does have some sore spots. While Wilson is funny enough, a lot of his jokes seemed somewhat muted. The audience really wasn't laughing, and neither was I. He gets many of great lines, but he gets a bunch of others that just don't work. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, while the action scenes are great, there are a few stretches, especially in the beginning, when there is no action for a long time. I became bored for about ten minutes near the beginning of the film, but it does pick up.
The movie has its weak moments, but for the most part is pretty satisfying. The screenwriters pull a few clever tricks along the way, including such British greats as Jack the Ripper and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the plot. There were probably more references that I didn't pick up on, but what I saw was fun to watch; I just wish there was more.
"Shanghai Knights" was not a movie that I walked away from feeling absolutely satisfied, but I enjoyed myself and would watch it again easily. As Jackie Chan goes, this is pretty average for him; anyone who likes his style of humor will enjoy the movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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